The Los Angeles Dodgers kickstarted the offseason by hammering out a three-year contract extension with longtime ace Clayton Kershaw that will keep him with the only organization he’s known through the 2021 MLB season.
Having taken care of business early on, Kershaw is now focused on returning to elite form in 2019. One of his main goals this winter is to regain velocity on his fastball, which averaged a career-low 90.8 mph this past season.
As an effort to do so, Kershaw revealed that he will seek advice from older pitchers around the league, such as the Houston Astros’ Justin Verlander. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts also indicated that the left-hander will work on biomechanics.
President of baseball operations Andrew Friedman isn’t convinced that Kershaw needs to rediscover his fastball velocity in order to be successful going forward, citing his arsenal of pitches and work ethic as qualities to like, per Ken Gurnick of MLB.com:
“I would just bet on him having a lot of success and I don’t feel like he needs to significantly improve his velocity to do that,” said Friedman. “I don’t think it’s necessary to have great success for him. Look at last year, how well he pitched, I would bet on his stuff and his execution being better next year. Velocity, mixing pitches, whatever it is. I don’t think it’s all tied to fastball velocity. He is working on his body. He feels there was some delivery stuff that got out of whack, to be expected with a back injury to be compensating. There are so many more guys I’m focused on. I will bet on him.”
Again missing time with back issues, Kershaw was forced to reinvent himself a bit during the 2018 season, relying less heavily on his fastball and more on breaking pitches.
The left-hander still put forth a solid campaign, posting a 2.73 ERA, 3.18 FIP and 1.04 WHIP in 161.1 innings of work (26 starts). Kershaw intends to prioritize his health as a way to limit future disabled list stints so he can again deploy his fastball at a higher usage rate.